Blazing trails can be fun and exciting. But sooner or later, along come the folks who want to put a damper on things. Regulate you. Even threaten you.
So it is with the wide open spaces of the Internet, where people go to speak their minds.
A website about New York politics called Room 8 received a subpoena from Bronx prosecutors, trying to force the publishers to help identify persons blogging at the site anonymously.
Such an attempt might be reasonable. Maybe it could help catch some criminal. As Ben Smith, a co-founder of Room 8, puts it, “Was somebody found face-down on their keyboard and the I.P. address was going to help identify the killer?”
Smith called the district attorney’s office to try to get more information. None was given. Not only that, the subpoena spoke ominously about how disclosure of the “very existence” of the subpoena would “impede the investigation.” Obstructing an investigation . . . can’t that can get you thrown in jail yourself?
If governments get away with such tactics, bloggers would be prevented from exercising their most potent weapon to fight injustice: anonymity. Anonymous writing helped foment the American Revolution. Letting governments, today, suppress such free speech amounts to a repudiation of this American idea.
The founders of Room 8 got themselves some lawyers. The subpoena, fortunately, has been withdrawn. Still no word on what the crime was.
Maybe speaking out of turn?
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.